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Welcome readers to the midway point in our weeks countdown of the Top Five Most Common SEO Issues as Seen by Receptional in 2011.

If you were unfortunate enough to miss numbers four and five of the countdown, don’t worry, dry those tears, here they are:

Number Four – Content

Number Five – XML Sitemaps

Today’s issue, at number three on our chart is…

Der Der Der Dun-Dun-Dun, Der Der Dun Duuuuuuuun

Page Titles & Meta Elements

It had to make the list, bread and butter of SEO yet an issue we see on almost every site we work on. Well written, relevant and properly constructed page titles, descriptions and other key meta elements such as page descriptions are essential components of search engine marketing.

Titles

Page titles within a website are one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. They provide search engines that are indexing your website with valuable information as to what the ‘theme’ of a page is, and will appear as the hyperlink to your website in search results pages.

For this reason it is vital that they always provide unique information relevant to a particular page alongside a strong focus on the keywords that you are targeting, while still being attractive to users to facilitate clickthroughs.

General guides to follow when writing pages titles:

  • Unique, with no duplicated titles across the site
  • Accurately describe the page content
  • Include a call to action wherever suitable
  • Be of appropriate length to make the most of the space (70 characters is optimum in Google)
  • Bold and capitalised to stand out amongst competitors
  • Contain targeted keywords (in a natural way), at the front
  • Contain your brand name if relevant

There are almost always improvements to make with client’s page titles, many are too short or too long and truncated, whilst others set automatically generated, generic page titles which creating severe duplication issues.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are another important aspect to consider when optimising websites. Although meta descriptions have very little impact on rankings (as they are not indexed by search engines) they are will have a large impact on users viewing search results, and on click through rates so should be written carefully.

Meta descriptions should be viewed as a website’s sales pitch to potential customers. Once search results have been compiled, the meta description will determine whether a user clicks on a site’s link or the result above or below it. If a description is not defined on a page, search engines will scrape content to display instead. There is argument for leaving search engines to extract data as they will pull the keywords used in the search – it’s best to be evaluated on an individual case basis.

Many of the rules for writing page titles also apply to meta descriptions:

  • Unique, with no duplicated descriptions across the site
  • Accurately describe the page content
  • Include a call to action wherever suitable
  • Be of appropriate length to make the most of the space (150-160 characters is optimum in Google)
  • Contain targeted keywords (in a natural way), at the front
  • Contain your brand name if relevant
  • Be compelling to entice clicks

Keywords Element

Another popular meta element is the keywords tag.

<meta name="keywords" content="redundant, outdated, ignored"/>

Meta keywords were used in the early days of search engines but are now almost universally considered redundant. Simplistic in nature, they were used to define a page’s theme but were often untrustworthy and easy to spam. There is no evidence to suggest including the keyword meta element will harm a sites performance, but it has been confirmed that most search engines will completely ignore the keyword element. As there cannot be any possible benefit, it is advisable to remove the tag completely – at the very least this removes the additional and unnecessary code.

And there you have it. Please leave any comments on titles and meta elements below, and be sure to check back tomorrow for number two of Receptional’s common SEO issues countdown.